Every time I get a commission for a Fortean Times cover illustration my first thought is PULP! My head is full of lurid colours, square-jawed heroes battling huge monsters and somewhere a preternaturally curvy woman is losing the battle to stay fully clothed. I can’t help it. *As a child I was hit on the head by a huge library book of 1950s Sci-Fi and horror ‘movie’ posters.
*may be a lie.
Luckily modern magazine covers are the product of more than one brain and I am quickly persuaded out of this notion by less fevered and more rational minds. However, recently I decided that it would be fun to indulge my appetite for pulp by ‘reimagining’ some of my old Fortean Times illustrations as pulp covers and turning them into posters.
So far I’ve got about ten ideas for faux pulp fiction covers worked out. With styles and genres ranging from the 1920’s to the late 60’s and covering; dime detectives, Boys Own adventure stories, Sci-Fi , monsters and assorted Nazis.
The first one on the list is the POPOBAWA. My original illustration is shown below right and how it appeared on the cover of Fortean Times #242 Oct 2008.
The POPOBAWA is allegedly a shape shifting man-bat that prowls the rooftops of Zanzibar and forces itself upon man and woman alike. This sounded to me like a typical story from the ‘weird menace’ sub-genre of horror fiction that flourished from the 1930s to the early 1940’s. They evolved out of the detective Dime novels of the early 30’s but owed more to the gory bloodlust of the French Théâtre du Grand-Guignol. The most extreme publications were known as ‘shudder pulps’. With titles like Terror Tales and Spicy Mysteries they always featured a barely clothed woman about to be tortured by some horrific monster or disfigured cultist. They were eventually banned by censors in the early 1940’s after a backlash and I hadn’t the stomach to resurrect them here. But I did name my fictional pulp publication Spicy Shudders as a nod to those early shudder pulps.
For the overall style and layout I aimed for late 30’s to early 40’s dime detective novels as I wanted a more polished look to the finished painting. In the course of my research I must have looked at several hundred pulp fiction covers. One thing that stood out was the number of obviously fake ‘nom de plumes’ that authors had used, presumably too ashamed to use their real names. So I came up with a few of my own. If there is a real V.J. Rubright, my apologies. Seriously (sniggers).
Sharp eyed observers and people who know me may realise that the pose of the Bat-man is inspired by the Black Sabbath World Tour ’77 logo which I had painted on my bedroom wall as a spotty teen \m/